Bon Appétit! Julia Child’s 100th Birthday Celebrated Wednesday
(NEW YORK) -- Before Mario Batali, Paula Deen and Bobby Flay, there was Julia Child, the first "celebrity chef."
The pioneering culinary icon, so memorably portrayed by Meryl Streep in the film Julie & Julia, would have been 100 years old on Wednesday. To mark the occasion, PBS, home of Child's legendary series The French Chef, is paying tribute to her legacy.
PBS is encouraging Julia Child fans to cook their own versions of her classic dishes and share the experience through pictures and blogs at PBS.org/food, and by using the Twitter hashtag #cookforJulia.
In addition, PBS.org is offering more than 100 exclusive episodes of Child's shows -- not only The French Chef, but also Baking with Julia, In Julia's Kitchen, Cooking with Master Chefs and more. Her recipes and quotes, as well as tributes by famous chefs, can also be found on the site.
Celebrity chef Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey's former personal chef who's currently appearing in Top Chef Masters, was lucky enough to have known Julia Child personally. He tells ABC News Radio about Child's lasting legacy.
"What she did was she brought a different cuisine from a very far place to the American table and, through her talent of simplicity, taught America, engaged America, made America want to cook," says Smith.
Smith adds that despite the gourmet food that Child was known for creating, she wasn't a food snob.
"Even though she's known for bringing French cooking to America, she also was a huge fan of American food," he reveals. "She loved a hamburger. She loved a steak. She loved a baked potato."
Crediting Child with being "the first celebrity chef as we know a celebrity chef," Smith says part of the secret to her success was her relationship with her husband, Paul Cushing Child, which was portrayed in Julie & Julia. Paul was the one who introduced Julia to fine cuisine.
"There was such a tremendous love affair between the two," says Smith. "They were each others' muse and I believe that her success came from that wonderful love affair."
Born on Aug. 15, 1912, Julia Child died on Aug. 13, 2004, at age 91.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio